I had thought about this in advance, so I was able to answer relatively smoothly. I told him that girls didn’t have a penis and Mommy was a girl. And of course the inevitable next question: Why?
Again, I’d done my homework and was prepped with a simple answer. Boys have penises so they can grow up to be daddies and girls don’t so they can grow up to be mommies. Simple and done. Nathan was satisfied and moved on to a new topic.
I’m pretty proud of how this was handled. I was calm and matter-of-fact so that he didn’t get the idea this was a shocking or forbidden topic (a guaranteed way to make sure he starts bringing it up all the time). The information I gave was easy to understand and age appropriate, thanks to some research in advance with Dr. Laura Berman. She’s got some simple pamphlets and diagrams that parents can use to explain sex to their kids and it’s broken down according to age.
I could have gotten into a discussion of gender roles and sexual politics through history but he doesn’t care about any of that. He’s learning about his body and the differences between bodies. To him, there’s no more significance in asking why Mommy doesn’t have a penis than in asking why his grandfather doesn’t have hair on his head and his father does. It’s just a difference and he’s curious about it, which we certainly don’t want to discourage.
We have to be a little extra careful in explaining things to the boys because of their autism. Alex in particular has a habit of repeating things, sometimes months after the fact. So we need to make sure whatever we say is suitable to repetition. We also have to make sure what we say is short and to the point since they’ll start to tune out longer explanations.
I’ll be curious to see if the topic comes up again anytime soon. I wonder if I’ve satisfied his curiousity or if more questions will be coming as he has more time to think about it. I’m actually kind of pleased to be dealing with this. It’s a normal parenting challenging, one that every parent has to go through. It’s not one of our special autism parenting challenges. It’s nice to be able to deal with something which is well documented with lots of tools available.